Building a Career: Borzick Reflects on 35 Years with the City of Lake Forest
By David A. F. Sweet
As one enters Building Maintenance Supervisor Bill Borzick’s office, it’s hard not to notice a sign that says Complaint Dept., with an arrow and a number describing the department as being thousands of miles away.
Truth is, there’s been little to complain about during Borzick’s lengthy tenure with the City of Lake Forest. And his 35-year run will end May 20, when he will retire the same day as his wife Kim does from Abbott Labs.
Building Maintenance Supervisor Bill Borzick is retiring on May 20 after 35 years working with the City of Lake Forest.
“The best thing has been the relationships with people, from those I work with on staff to the Director of Gorton to the City Manager,” said Borzick, wearing a green City of Lake Forest shirt while sitting near his desk. “I’m proud that a lot of our people have gone on to do great work in other departments, such as Streets & Sanitation and the Water Treatment Plant. It shows that we have a good program here.”
Actually, Borzick’s association with the City goes back even further than 35 years. His father, Bill, served as the Lake Forest Cemetery sexton. As a teenager, Borzick helped out during funerals.
In 1987, Borzick earned a full-time role in the Parks & Recreation Department. Rather than engage in his new tasks slowly, he was involved immediately.
“My first month here, I was working seven days a week, trying to get the new beach finished before it opened,” said Borzick, who constructed a new sandbox, helped build the playground and installed flower beds before 200,000 visitors appeared to enjoy the $8.5 million project.
When the Building Maintenance Department was launched in 1996, Borzick was the first person Dan Martin – now the Superintendent of Public Works -- hired. At that point, there were only six buildings to maintain: City Hall, Municipal Services off of Laurel Avenue, the two train stations along with the fire and police buildings.
“One of the enjoyable things is we built the department from the ground up,” said Borzick, adding that the department is responsible for nearly three dozen buildings today, the latest being Elawa Farm.
Borzick and his team of six full-time staffers and a handful of seasonal workers and contractors have an array of responsibilities at the sites; they are involved in electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation and more.
“We do it all,” Borzick said.
The team – which tries to treat all buildings equally – faces challenges, especially with historical buildings.
“They bring in a new level of maintenance – restoration rather than replacement,” Borzick said. “Sometimes the parts don’t even exist anymore. Sometimes we have to build them ourselves.
“The last couple of years during the pandemic have been stressful. When ordering new windows for Elawa, we were told it could take up to 40 weeks.”
One might think a building maintenance worker would be involved solely with tasks ranging from electrical wiring to furnace replacements. But Borzick has also saved lives.
One time, a large-beaked great blue heron was stuck between the roof and fireplace of the north Forest Park Beach building. Needing to act quickly, Borzick put a sweater on him, picked him up and drove him to the Ponds near Route 41 to free him. Another time, while Borzick and his crew were taking out the piers in Lake Michigan, he saw a deer was stuck in the water.
“I put waders on, grabbed him and put a blanket on him,” Borzick recalled. “He couldn’t even move – he was completely exhausted.” The deer survived.
During retirement, Borzick will play more disc golf with his son Jon, who hopes to turn professional (they have already played 200 courses together).
“It’s a good way to walk,” Borzick said. “I’m not a fan of the gym. I’d rather be doing something.”
As he reflected on his career that began so long ago that Lake Forest residents didn’t even have cable TV, Borzick talked about the key to his longevity.
“If I wasn’t happy,” he said, “I wouldn’t have stayed for 35 years.”